Chris Owens Is Just One Of The Girls
Chris Owens of Girls is so chilled on the phone that our conversation meanders along at quite a leisurely pace. With pauses, sighs and, let’s say, ‘efficient’ answers, Chris doesn’t sound overly excited about his new EP, Broken Dreams Club . But he’s not that excitable.
He does have some broken dreams to talk about, however. After being brought up in the Children Of God cult, Owens escaped a few years ago and now makes music – beautiful, shining indie rock that’s about as chilled as Chris is. Girls don’t make music that’s worried about too much, and despite a strange upbringing, neither is Chris. But I’m sure that jumping straight into the cult stuff will make for an even more awkward interview, so we talk about his home town first.
“I’m at home in San Francisco and I don’t know, just like, taking a little time off. Spending some time with friends,” Owens purrs. It’s in San Francisco that Girls has really been able to flourish – a place where everyone seems to share ideas, collaborate and generally do each other favours.
For example, Owens found and continues to find band members in San Fran just through his networks. “They [are] other people that live here that play music already that have bands and stuff like that. I just asked them to be part of the project and we’ve played with some different people – we’ve played with a lot of different people in the last couple of years and we sort of found a more permanent band recently.”
Or, for example, having their music being used in a gay porn film. “A couple of times,” Owens gently corrects me. Most recently, his song Solitude was used in a kind of indie gay short porn film. “There’s not much to tell,” he says, without fuss.
“It’s just that somebody wanted to use our music for their video and they made a porn movie or something, and they wanted the people in the video to be listening to music and they wanted it to be our music so we let them do it. It was kind of somebody we knew who made the video. I was like, ‘Sure, go ahead…’ It was a movie about two guys who are kind of into indie rock and stuff. It kind of makes sense when you watch it. They’re trying to show what sort of characters the guys are.”
Girls’ music does seem to fit with the idea. Selling out, though? Chris wants none of it. “Not so much,” he says, fairly surely. “We’ve had a lot of offers but we haven’t really licensed the music that much yet. It’s kind of hard – there weren’t any amazing offers so we didn’t really feel like doing it. If people want to use it for fun, it’s fine, but we haven’t had any really cool movies or anything like that. We get some commercial offers but we don’t really want to do that yet. It just seems a little bit inappropriate or something.”
Of course – but the gay porn thing is totally not inappropriate at all. Such is the logic of Girls, who, after releasing their much-praised debut Album, Girls have recently released an EP, Broken Dreams Club, to precede their forthcoming second album. And broken dreams are certainly something Chris has a few of.
The Children Of God cult story is one fairly well known, but bears a bit of repeating now. Owens was born into a family who were part of one of the most closed and strange cults in America, whose main points seemed to be protecting their children from all the ‘evils’ of the outside world. After deciding to leave the cult, Owens was able to finally experience the world as we all know it.
“I don’t necessarily hate talking about it, it’s just that, I don’t know, it’s just that most of the things that people ask me, I’ve already talked about,” he says. “It’s not that [it’s unpleasant], I just feel that people ask the same things all the time, things that you can already read online.”
I’m wary about pushing the topic, but at the same time interested in how a whole world of music must have seemed to someone who had never heard it before. “I’m still trying to catch up on pretty standard music that people are listening to,” Owens explains, “but I guess we all have different experiences; I don’t feel behind from people but there is a lot of music and it just takes a lot of time to be able to listen to everything.”
And though you might expect a lot of the emotional response to such a huge life-changing event like leaving a cult might infiltrate one’s music, Chris assures me that it’s not quite so intense. “I’d already left for a while before I started playing music,” he says. It was only at Girls’ first album and at 25 that Owens penned his first track, despite playing music since he was 12.
“I… would sort of sing and play music with other people as a group but it wasn’t really a creative thing,” he goes on. “It was like songs that were part of our lifestyle – songs that we grew up learning. It wasn’t really about writing or anything like that, it was just about having something to do together.”
Thankfully, the real world has allowed him to meet the right people and make some amazing music. “Everything I do now is part of what I couldn’t do before. It’s not only music – it’s a completely different way of life. It comes down to every single thing I do. And I never even would have thought about playing in a band before, so it is definitely a different way that I’m spending my time.”
And about that second album? When might it be expected? “Oh, I don’t know. We have no idea,” he drawls, lazily. “It depends on how long we spend recording it and after it’s done we’ll probably pick a time that seems good to release it.
“We’re not in a big rush.” he adds. He certainly doesn’t sound like he’s in a big rush, I remark, and we chuckle together. Life’s good for Owens now, it seems, and it seems broken dreams, like pumpkins to carriages, can turn into musical masterpieces.
GIRLS play The Corner Hotel on December 10 and Meredith across December 10-12. Broken Dreams Club is out now on Pod through Inertia.